New York Critics are Hustlin’

Huh. Considering the main buzz out of early screenings of David O. Russell’s “American Hustle” was “entertaining, but not revelatory,” it didn’t seem like the film, in this of all seasons, that the critics would stake their claim on. Then again, that mild befuddlement was pretty much my same reaction to both of Russell’s previous two films (“The Fighter” and “Silver Linings Playbook”), so I guess I should just expect this now. He’s a talented guy and I do enjoy his films, but once again, rewarding a slick genre piece over more challenging work like “12 Years a Slave”…

It would also be one thing if we were talking about the Golden Globes here, or even the National Board of Review (who chime in tomorrow), but this is the New York Film Critics’ Circle – usually a slightly snobbier bunch. But there you are – “American Hustle” is their pick for best film of the year. Word is that the vote actually came down to a tie-breaker between “Hustle” and “12 Years a Slave,” though, so it’s not like McQueen’s film is hurt any in the long run. In fact, I think the Fox Searchlight campaigners might be glad to have the attention shift elsewhere for a little bit; it’s a long way yet to Oscar, and we know how presumptive frontrunners have a tendency to fall by the wayside if crowned too early.

Elsewhere in the NY picks, Robert Redford got exactly the notice he needed, receiving Best Actor for his solo work in J.C. Chandor’s survival piece “All Is Lost.” Unsurprisingly, Redford doesn’t much go in for the campaign junket, so he’ll need critics’ groups like these to stay in the packed lead actor field. Blanchett may be the one to beat for her fantastic work in “Blue Jasmine,” and watch out for Jared Leto in “Dallas Buyers Club-” he’s getting fantastic reviews and it’s the perfect kind of restrained-in-a-showy-role performance that the Academy loves (only slightly less than showy-in-a-showy-role performances).

I’m fully on board with wins for “The Wind Rises” and “Stories We Tell,” two of my absolute favorites of the year, no question. And I’m excited to see Bruce Delbonnel, a great cinematographer in his own right (“Amélie,” “Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince”) stepping in so smoothly to work with the Coens with their regular DP, Roger Deakins, busy elsewhere. I’m absolutely going to see that movie when it releases on Friday, finals be damned.

Really, besides that somewhat unexpected top pick, no curveballs here from the NYFCC in the first shot of the season. How will NBR chime in tomorrow? Will the last big question mark of the year, “The Wolf of Wall Street,” show up? (I’m unclear on whether it screened in time for either the NY critics or NBR to consider it, but good word of mouth is starting to creep out)

New York Film Critics Circle Awards

Best Picture: American Hustle

Best Director: Steve McQueen, “12 Years a Slave”

Best Actor: Robert Redford, “All Is Lost”

Best Actress: Cate Blanchett, “Blue Jasmine”

Best Supporting Actor: Jared Leto, “Dallas Buyers Club”

Best Supporting Actress: Jennifer Lawrence, “American Hustle”

Best Screenplay: American Hustle

Best Foreign Language Film: Blue Is the Warmest Color

Best Animated Film: The Wind Rises

Best Cinematography: Bruno Delbonnel, “Inside Llewyn Davis”

Best First Film: Fruitvale Station

Best Non-Fiction Film: Stories We Tell

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